Grief and Death for Non-Believers

Started by

I don't know if there is any interest in a thread like this. But I am on my third round of losing a parent (father, stepmother, now mother), and I find myself so frustrated and irritated by the religiosity that is pushed on me when I'm dealing with issues grief and death. You may know the kind I'm talking about. "They're going to a better place." Or, "You'll see them again someday!" Or, "Take comfort in god." Or, "Trust in god, this is part of his plan." I know people are usually well-meaning, but I DON'T find comfort in that at all. I find it dismissive of my own belief system, to be honest.

As it is, I have a really hard time with death. Because I don't believe that I'll see them again, my grief seems all the more devastating. It also makes me fear death far more than I did when I was a believer. I notice this in my mother too - she has never been a believer, even back when I was, and now she is hanging on to a life of suffering because it's better than ceasing to exist. I don't even know how to comfort her myself. It would be easier to deal with all this if I could just believe in some kind of afterlife, but I don't. I have wrangled with spiritual issues all my life, and my conclusion is that....I HOPE there's something, but I really don't think there is.

Anyone else in this non-believer boat and want to join me in wrangling with your own death and grief issues here? Or maybe you're a believer who doesn't know how to comfort non-believers, but would like to explore that?

(I strongly urge the religious folks on this board to avoid using this thread as an opportunity to proselytize to an already vulnerable group of people.)


People want to offer some comfort at a time when words of comfort are hard to come by, I feel if someone shares their belief in something with me it's OK as long as they don't expect me to agree with them. What really annoys me are the semi religious platitudes that are repeated so often that aren't even scriptural - "god never hands you more than you can handle" is one that sets my teeth on edge, or BS about heaven having a new angel....
I hear that, cwillie. Those kind of "comfort" platitudes make me feel like....I don't want to say that person seems shallow, but those phrases seem similar to the depth-less "copy and paste this on social media to show you care about (depression/breast cancer/child abuse)!" type posts.

Most of the time, when someone offers me spiritual comfort out of genuine believe, I just say a quiet "thank you" and hope they stop there. But sometimes they keep on going and then get upset with me if I say, "I'm sorry, but that really doesn't help." And/or then I find myself avoiding them if I run into them somewhere!
I wanted to add, before this thread blows up in my face somehow, that I actually really ENVY people with genuine faith. I wish I could believe that I will see my loved ones again, but I just don't.
Oh boy....A thread about annoying Christians! This ought to get good fast....

I predict soul saving efforts, heated debates and prayers for us non believers. And the thread will probably get shut down soon.

I respect anyone’s right to believe anything they want but I don’t like to be expected to respect what people believe. There’s some wacky stuff out there.

But let’s face it, most of the people on earth claim to be BELIEVERS. I bow my head during grace at thanksgiving, prayers at funerals and all that. I’m not a militant atheist. It just makes life to hard file a lawsuit over every nativity scene in the town square.

For example....My mom is not religious and has made it clear that she wants a simple service when she dies, not a church service. But I know most of the folks at her service will want to have a prayer or two. I’ll allow one prayer out of respect for our friends and relatives who are religious. It won’t kill me.

The only time I get just a little militant is when people tell me how they’ll pray for me or want to SAVE me. Or, let’s face it, all the evangelicals who think Trump represents family values.
Thank you, Dorianne, for starting this thread! I hear you. I do believe there's a plane for souls or spirits (not heaven). Like you, I don't generally mind too much from the kind genuine believers (just don't push it). A couple days ago the chaplain from hospice came to talk with Mom and I spoke with him about Mom so he could better understand her. Of course before they left he asked Mom to pray with him which she did. He asked me to join in their hand-holding. I did but I don't care for it but I saw no reason to be rude. I just kept my eyes open and stared. When he included me in his prayer-blessing it was very emotional for me. I appreciated what he said.
My response to "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" is that I think he's over estimated my abilities. That usually stops that conversation.....
I do go to church occasionally (I guess I've always hoped that maybe faith would rub off on me somehow) so I understand when people assume I buy into all of that. It used to make me squirm inside when the minister came to the house to visit with mom and give her communion because I was expected to take part too, I kind of wanted to roll my eyes sometimes, but there's no need to be rude about it.
"The Power of Myth", by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers is a very good read along the lines of finding meaning in life throughout the ages. I got a hold of it in my 20's and was able to settle down quite a lot about death after having been raise in a fundamentalist household and being unable to "believe". I am also not an atheist. Some people, according to psychologists, are just naturally able to have faith, some are not.
Dorianne, I’m somewhat there with you. I was raised Jewish but my dad wasn’t so I got to see more than one religion in a household as well as friends of different religions. Anyway, I don’t know what I believe or how I feel about “after death”. I agree, I want to think there is something after death but I’m not sure there is. I also have a huge fear of death and “not existing.” I just let the people say what they need, thank them and move on as long as they don’t push their beliefs on me.
Lol Windyridge.....

I don't mean just Christian faith, though. I was a strong Christian in my youth - totally by choice (my family is not religious....we were not even baptized because our parents wanted us to make our own choices about religion). In my mid-20s I started learning about other religions and faiths, along with mythologies, so my belief in organized religion fell away with increased knowledge. But I still believed in SOMETHING. A huge part of my shift towards disbelief in the last 10 or so years has come from the "new age" community of believers, alongside my growing interest in science. I made a dear friend out of a woman who runs a metaphysical store - selling everything from crystals to tarot decks, with customers varying from pagans to practitioners of what I now call "Buddhism Lite." *cough*Eckhart Tolle*cough* The more I got to know the customers, the less I found myself able to believe in anything. Especially when books like The Secret and the philosophy of (the totally b.s.) "law of attraction" started getting hot. I really lost it where "The Secret" basically says that Jews brought on ("attracted") their own torture and murder at the hands of the Nazis. And it seemed to me that some of these folks were just as - if not more - judgemental and self-righteous as some (SOME) Christians tend to be.  Plus....anti-science to the Nth degree. 

In a nutshell.

Possibly in America, your focus is more on Christianity than anything else, but I do feel just as much frustration with members of other faiths, especially the "new age" ones.  Being a musician, I tend to meet more "new age" folks in the "artsy" circles of my real life these days than Christians.  Actually, the one Christian musician in my close friend circle is probably the least self-righteous and judgemental person I know!  And also one of the sweetest.  :-)

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support